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Are Terrorists Cultists


Cultic Studies Review, 5(2), 2006, 198-218

Are Terrorists Cultists?

Arthur A. Dole


Are terrorists cultists? Or, are cultists terrorists? To open exploration of these questions within a speculative framework, I begin by examining the definitions of basic terms, relying heavily on previous analyses by Dole and by Langone, Stout, Lifton, Zimbardo, and others. After a review of extremely harmful acts by terrorists and cultists since 2001, I discuss how often, for what purposes, and under what circumstances such groups use violence. As examples I select two terrorist groups and two cultic groups and compare them on selected abusive and beneficial characteristics, using a modified version of the Group Psychological Abuse Scale as a rough yardstick. I then discuss possible counter actions appropriate to some of the similarities and differences among cultists and terrorists. What research is needed to support prevention and control? Can aspects of exit consultation or other methods of behavioral control be applied to members of terrorist groups? When, if at all, might soft power or constructive action in the spirit of Martin Luther King be effective? I conclude that some but not all terrorists are similar in their dynamics to cultists and that many cultists are not similar to terrorists.

Are terrorists cultists? Or, are cultists terrorists? To explore these questions within a speculative framework, I will review and update portions of a chapter in The Psychology of Terrorism (Stout, 2002) that I prepared in the fall of 2001 just after the bombings of September 11. I then compare two terrorist and two cultic groups.
Terrorist

After examining various definitions of "Terrorist," I concluded (Dole, 2001, p.213):

As Michael Kinsley (2001) has written, defining terrorism is essential; it's also impossible. I propose to use to use the term terrorist in the following sense: Given a conflict, a terrorist is an extremely hostile opponent.

Current usage among coalition countries tends to define terrorist as anyone who harms noncombatants. Such thinking demonizes without accounting for variations and distinctions. Thus, by this definition, Basque separatists, Moroccan bombers, Hezbollah, Saddam Hussein, and the bin Laden suicide gang are all terrorists. A Spaniard or American may be tempted to overlook that each group may have very different histories, customs, purposes, grievances, and methods. Events since 9/11 have not changed my view that calling an opponent a terrorist without amplification interferes with the resolution of a particular conflict, whether by military or diplomatic means. Thus although Saddam could be called a terrorist and a tyrant, he was not responsible for the suicide attacks on the United States (9/11 Report, 2004).

Suicide attacks and other murderous assaults are not new; as methods in all kinds of warfare including insurgency they have been used for centuries. See also Stout (2002) for a wide variety of views about terrorism.

Cultist

In 2002 (Dole, 2002) I wrote that cultist (cult member) is also a tricky term. Lawyers, sociologists, and theologians among others apply different meanings. As a psychologist, I found the definitions of Beit-Hallahmi (1993) and Rosedale and Langone (1998) most useful. In the present paper I propose to rely also on the wording of the recent ICSA definition (ICSA, 2005) of cult proposed by Rutgers sociologist Benjamin Zablocki and commented upon by Rosedale and Langone:

An ideological organization held together by charismatic relationships and demanding total commitment." Charisma refers to a spiritual power or personal quality that gives leaders influence or authority over large numbers of people. Hence a cult is characterized by an ideology, strong demands issuing from that ideology, and powerful processes of social-psychological influence to induce group members to meet those demands. This high-demand leader-centered social climate places such groups at risk of exploiting and injuring members, although they may remain benign, if leadership doesn't abuse its power.

In my opinion the expression “cultist (or cult)” is not necessarily pejorative. A cultist may or may not be harmful or harmless, a victim or beneficiary. A cult leader may be responsible and ethical or a criminal who is dangerous to his followers and/or the public.
Mind Control

In the weeks after 9/11 many cult specialists wondered whether or not suicide bombers were under mind control as described by Lifton (1961) and Ziimbardo (1996). At that time I suggested (Dole, 2001, p. 214) that:

Abusive religious, political, and other groups. . .{ apply ) deception, intensive persuasion, covert hypnotic techniques, and extreme flattery to recruit converts. They control devotees through confession, induced guilt, a totalistic organization, and absolute adherence to a theology or dogma. The individual's freedom is sharply reduced.; . . . The leaders have control of the recruit's environment.

Of the flood of articles and books published in the last six years that address the question of intensive social influence I will mention briefly work by psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton (2000), social psychologist Anthony Stahelski (2005), and sociologist Janja Lalich (2004a; 2004b).

In Destroying the World to Save it Lifton (2000) tells the terrible tale of Aum Shinrikyo. When the guru, Asahara, and his followers released Sarin gas in Japan's subways they believed that global destruction, fear, and chaos would lead to a wonderful world. In short, terror was essential.

Lalich (2004) compared the Democratic Workers Party, a small radical political cult led by a charismatic woman, with Heaven’s Gate. The leaders of Heaven’s Gate offered their followers a transcendent vision, an ideal world beyond planet Earth that they could attain by the ultimate self-sacrifice. Lalich's theory of bounded choice stresses the complexity of the interactions among group members and the power of charisma.

Stahelski (2005) proposes a social psychological conditioning theory to explain how terrorists are created by cultic groups. Within a context of group dynamics he posits five phases of conditioning: depluralization, self-deindividuation, other-deindividuation, dehumanization, and demonization.

My conclusion given present knowledge is that how groups and their leaders control the behavior, cognitions, and emotions of insiders and outsiders is immensely complex and varied.
Violence

One thing that terrorists have in common is the use of violence against their enemies outside their group, including noncombatants. Insurgents in Israel, Ireland, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or Sri Lanka kill those whom they allege occupy their homelands. Whether or not these groups are part of a world wide conspiracy is debatable. In contrast, many abusive cultic groups tend to direct their aggression against insiders or former insiders (Dole, 2002). Although outsiders can be "fair game," with few exceptions cults’ main mission is the conversion and exploitation of their members

For example, Kent (2004) has borrowed from the family violence and sociology of violence literature to identify four interrelated domains associated with religious violence: (Kent, 2004, p. 101): (1) intrapsychic or biopsychosocial contributors; (2) interpersonal contributors; (3) intragroup contributors; and (4) intergroup contributors.

Kent (2004, pp. 125-128) lists 22 sects, cults, and new religions involved with violent deaths during the past four decades. Of these only three—Manson in the United States, Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, and the Movement for the Restoration of God in Uganda—killed substantial numbers of innocent outsiders.

I scanned all News reports published in the Cultic Studies Review from 2002 to 2004. I found stories of fraud, abuse of women and children, and negligent homicide, but no instances of mass murder. In other words, some groups monitored by CSR may exhibit criminal behaviors but few could be classified as terrorists or killer cults such as Al Qaeda.
Terrorists or Cultists?

How similar are terrorist and cultic groups on salient characteristics of psychological abuse? To explore this question I administered the Group Psychological Scale, GPA, (Chambers, Langone, Dole & Grice, 1994) to a class of 10 senior adults a few days after 9/11. After a brief presentation about cults based on available public knowledge at that time about Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, I asked them to respond to the GPA. Recall that the GPA comprises 28 items that purport to measure the varieties of cultic abuse. (More about this use of the GPA shortly.) On each of four subscales (Compliance, Exploitation, Mind Control, and Anxious Dependency,) and on the total score Al Qaeda was rated characteristic of a psychologically abusive religious group. Dole concluded: (2002, p221)

In other words, the public image of bin Laden and his followers shortly after the suicides was that they resembled a very abusive group. It is important to stress that an accurate GPA rating by former Al Qaeda members is not currently obtainable. Rather, as a psychologist I could argue that the U.S. had successfully demonized Bin Laden, its opponent.


Exhibit A


Group Psychological Abuse Scale


Groups Rated by Dole: Iraqi Rulers; Iraqi Insurgents; Afghan Al Qaeda; Heavens Gate


Directions:

This rating scale is designed to evaluate certain aspects of religious, psychotherapeutic, political, commercial, and other groups. Please rate, as best you can, the degree to which the following statements characterize the group under consideration. Rate each group according to your knowledge (reading, television, radio, experience, and observation) of how the group functions. Write in the number of the best answer, using the following ratings:

1 = not at all characteristic

2 = not characteristic

3 = can't say/not sure

4 = characteristic

5 = very characteristic


Sub Scales with Examples:

COMPLIANCE. Example: Members are expected to serve the groups leaders.

EXPLOITATION. Example: The group approves of violence against outsiders.

(e.g., "satanic communists," etc.)

MIND CONTROL. Example: Mind control is used without conscious consent of members.

ANXIOUS DEPENDENCY. Example: The group believes or implies its leader is divine.


Scores

The score for each sub scale represents the mean of the seven item means assigned to a factor (range per item 1.0-5.0). The Total represents the mean of all 28 ratings. See Chambers et al. (1994) for a description of this measure of the varieties of cultic abuse by a particular group..


For this paper, as shown in Exhibit A, I selected two terrorist groups—the secularist Iraqi Rulers (Baath party) before the Gulf War, the current Iraqi Insurgents—and two cultic groups—the Afghanistan based Al Qaeda (Wahabbi Muslims) and the American Heaven’s Gate. I chose each group primarily on the basis of my familiarity with them through reading, television, and /or radio. Although the GPA provided me with a common framework with which to view the groups, I make no claim to the scientific rigor and objectivity of my findings. Comparing case studies (Isaac & Michael, 2004) is a valuable exploratory method, although differences cannot be tested for statistical significance, and my selection of the four groups for convenience, rather than randomly, limits generalization.

To each of the four groups I applied the Directions for the Group Psychological Abuse Scale, modified to stress my knowledge of the group. (The original scale asked former group members to "Rate each item according to your experience and observations (in retrospect) of how the group actually functioned.")

I used the rating scale (from 1 = not at all characteristic to 5= very characteristic of psychological abuse) for each of the 28 items.

The GPA yields four Sub Scale scores and a Total score. According to Chambers et al (1994), the mean of the seven items representing Compliance measures the extent to which members sacrifice their own goals, serve leaders who make decisions, and comply with group norms.

Exploitation implies the group seeks power unethically. A cult manipulates, abuses, and uses people.

Mind Control measures the extent to which members are deceived, leaders use personal dominance, and the group uses coercive persuasion.

Anxious Dependency reflects a cult situation in which dependency can be absolute and fear tends to color all experiences. A word of caution here: When Almendros, Carrobles, Rodriguez-Carballeira, and Jansa (2003) analyzed the Spanish version of GPA for 61 members of 21 groups, they found the scale to be reliable and valid but they did not confirm the Anxious Dependency factor.

Total GPA: Assuming that my total mean of means fits Chambers’ (1994, p. 105) empirical definition of a cult, then this score may represent the extent to which in my estimate the group: "exploits members psychologically and/or financially, typically by making members comply with leadership's demands through certain types of psychological manipulation, popularly called mind control, and through the inculcation of deep-seated anxious dependency on the group and its leaders."

In the following I will summarize my impressions of each group followed by my GPA ratings of it on Exhibits B1-5. Note that in applied psychology standardized rating scales, as I have tried to adapt the GPA, are commonly used in studies of single individuals (e.g., teacher rates a pupil, employer rates an employee, psychologist rates a patient, etc.) or organizations (e.g., student rates her dormitory, employee rates his corporation).
Iraqi Rulers

Before the Gulf wars twenty five years ago Iraq was a despotism ruled by the dictator Saddam Hussein. After World War I the British had cobbled together an artificial monarchy, divided by religion, ethnic origin, tribal loyalties, and rural-urban conflict. Unlike most of its neighbors, the monarchy was overthrown by the Baathists and Iraq became a secular and socialist state. Its citizens had considerable personal freedom and economic security so long as they did not offend the controlling oligarchy. It terrorized internal enemies such as the Shiite Muslims and the Kurds and warred against neighboring states.

Saddam Hussein (Bowden, 2002) emerged from a society in which family and tribe were primary and survival depended upon violence and corruption. A clever tyrant, a canny pragmatist, he depended more on fear and manipulation than religious dogma and charisma to acquire power. Ruthlessly he held Iraq together and amassed influence and wealth.
GPA of Iraqi Rulers

For the GPA of the Iraqi Rulers look at Exhibit B1. Compliance = 3.3; Exploitation = 4.1; Mind Control = 4.3; Dependency = 2.9; Total GPA = 3.6 on Exhibit C (Cannot say items = 25%).

In my analysis of the Rulers of Iraq under Saddam, they most resembled a psychologically abusive group in their scores on Mind Control and Exploitation. Their Total score does not suggest a strongly cultic group.


Exhibit B1


Dole’s Ratings on GPA Subscales for Iraqi Rulers


Psy Abuse Rating

Compliance

Exploitation

Mind Control

Dependency


5 very characteristic


4.1

4.3



4 characteristic


3.3


3 can’t say

2.9



2 not characteristic



1 not at all characteristic

Iraqi Insurgents

Who are the terrorists who are fighting in Iraq against coalition forces and the newly formed government? According to the media they may include Baath party secularists who formerly ruled, Sunni Muslims opposed to Shiites, nationalists who resist a foreign occupier, thugs and criminals, former soldiers in the disbanded army, and agents of Al Qaeda from many Arab countries.

Although I am aware of little evidence that all the insurgents are united in their support of Al Qaeda or of any other sect, ideology, or vision, many of them appear to share one motivation. Fueled by a powerful mixture of humiliation, anger, and revenge, they seek to drive out the occupiers and take over from the current regime. Their leader may have been Abu Musab al-Zaqarwi, whom coalition forces killed in early 2006.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was listed as among Time magazine's 100 most influential people; Osama bin Laden was not included. Who is Zarqawi? Is he a terrorist? Master mind of the Madrid bombing? A cult leader?

I turned to my computer, to Google. There were over 284,000 items about Zarqawi as of April 14, 2005. I decided to concentrate on just two sources: The China Daily (Al-Zarqawi, 2005) and BBC News (“Profile” 2004).

Zarqawi was born in 1966 in Jordan of Palestinian Muslim parents. A high school drop out, he was an obscure petty criminal who studied the application of chemicals and explosives in an al Qaeda training camp. He is frequently linked to bombings, kidnappings, beheadings, assassinations, and threats in Iraq. The United States had posted a 50 million dollar reward for him.

On Feb. 5, 2003 Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar briefed the Spanish Parliament about an alleged chemical attack on Spain by Zarqawi. A year later, March 11, 2004, Zarqawi may have been linked to a Moroccan cell behind the bombing in Madrid that killed 191 people.

Although Zarqawi is often alleged to be associated with al Qaeda, even appointed the director of the Al Qaeda organization in Iraq, some independent experts believe that in fact he is not connected to al Qaeda, that his group is autonomous and a rival of Bin Laden. Reports about him differed. He had or had not one leg. He had or had not been arrested. A photograph circulated by BBC News in 2004 did not resemble a picture published in a United Arab Emirates daily newspaper in the spring of 2005.

I found no evidence that firmly justifies or repudiates the designation "charismatic cult leader."
GPA of Iraqi Insurgents

Please look at Exhibit B2. Compliance = 3.4; Exploitation = 4.1; Mind Control = 4.1; Dependency = 3.3; Total GPA = 3.8 (Can not say items = 46%).

Bearing in mind that my knowledge of the Insurgents is limited, mixed and contradictory, that I was unable to rate almost half the GPA item scales, I scored these terrorists, like their predecessors in Iraq, as most characteristic of a psychologically abusive group in respect to Exploitation and Mind Control.

Exhibit B2

Dole’s Ratings on GPA Subscales for Iraqi Insurgents

Psy Abuse Rating

Compliance

Exploitation

Mind Control

Dependency

5 very characteristic

4.1

4.1

4 characteristic

3.4

3.3

3 can’t say

2 not characteristic

1 not at all characteristic

Al Qaeda

After the suicide bombings of the Twin Towers, available evidence (Dole, 2002) suggested that al Qaeda was a killer cult and that Osama bin Laden was its charismatic leader. Wahabism (On Islam and its relation to Wahabism see especially Armstrong, 2000; Carr, 2002; Coll, 2004; Esposito, 2002 and Gregorian, 2003) originated in the Middle East as a fundamentalist Islamic sect. Islamic teachings were twisted by extremist imams to glorify suicide and the killing of infidels as the path to paradise. Holy war, or jihad, demands the destruction of Christians, Jews, Crusaders, and atheists. When the Russians set up a communist regime in Afghanistan, a coalition of warlords and dedicated Muslims, covertly supported by the United States, eventually forced them to withdraw.

Osama bin Laden, a wealthy, educated Saudi Arabian industrialist, who had provided funding and leadership during the war, became a hero. In an insecure world torn by economic and political conflicts, he had a special appeal for educated youth with limited prospects. He returned to Afghanistan (See especially Coll, 2004 for his relations with the CIA). In collaboration with the Taliban theocracy, he set up training camps, where recruits from around the Muslim world learned Al Qaeda doctrine as well as the use of guns and explosives. They formed autonomous small cells in Europe, Asia, and the United States that were supported by a covert Muslim financial network. In 1997 bin Laden declared war on the United States. Among his objectives were removal of U. S. bases in Saudi Arabia and withdrawal of support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.

Since the defeat of the Taliban, Osama and the Al Qaeda leadership have disappeared. The 9/11 commission (9/11 Report, 2004) concluded that Al Qaeda had no connection with the secular Baathists of Saddam Hussein. As we have noted, the extent of participation of Al Qaeda in Iraq and even in Madrid may or may not be exaggerated. Although experts like Bergen (2001) believe that the group may now be severely weakened, video tapes of Osama appear from time to time that encourage the faithful. According to Steven Coll (2004), Osama is the intellectual, the theorist, versed both in theology and politics; he is the public relations specialist for the group as well as its charismatic leader.
GPA of Al Qaeda

Please look at Exhibit B3. Compliance = 4.6; Exploitation = 4.1; Mind Control = 4.6; Dependency = 4.1; Total = 4.4 (Cannot say 3 = 11%).

When I apply whatever information is available to me in rating Al Qaeda on the GPA items, across the board it is characteristic of a group that uses psychological abuse. In particular, its high scores on Compliance and Mind Control fit with the impression that absolute obedience to Allah is more important than material gain. There is no scale on the GPA that characterizes a group on Violence (e.g. "aggressively kills outsiders in substantial numbers"). Such a scale would help to justify classifying Al Qaeda as a killer cult.

Exhibit B3

Dole’s Ratings on GPA Subscales for Afghan Al Qaeda

Psy Abuse Rating

Compliance

Exploitation

Mind Control

Dependency

5 very characteristic

4.6

4.6

4.1

4.1

4 characteristic

3 can’t say

2 not characteristic

1 not at all characteristic

Heaven’s Gate

In 1997 39 members of a group known as Heaven’s Gate killed themselves. As documented by sociologist Janja Lalich (2004a; 2004b), through interviews with former members and informed others, plus content analysis of archival reports, and scholarly and popular articles, Heaven’s Gate was a totalistic group. Its charismatic leaders, Ti and Do, controlled and influenced its members within a closed, self-sealing belief system.

Ti and Do, formerly Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, left traditional lives to form the group in the 1970's. Applewhite was divorced with four children and had been a music educator, while Nettles, a married mother of four children, had been a nurse.

At the height of the New Age Movement they were successful in recruiting members from communes and college campuses. They spoke convincingly about the Book of Revelations, about UFO's, reincarnation, and spirit beings, and they claimed they were messengers of the second coming. New members ranged in age from the late teens to the sixties. They gave up their worldly goods. Although these donations supported Ti and Do, Ti and Do were not interested in material things or sex. In fact, Ti may have been a latent homosexual. In the end they joined their followers in taking a poisonous potion of liquor and drugs.

Lalich (2004, page 233) described their belief system:

. . . Ti and Do would be killed by opponents. . . . and three and one-half days later a spaceship would arrive to lift them off to the "Next Level," or the "Level Above Human." . . .an actual physical place. . . . Days, months, years, even decades passed as Ti, Do, and their followers waited for the spaceship to retrieve them, all that time living within their specially constructed social system.
GPA of Heaven’s Gate

Now please look at B4. Compliance = 5.0; Exploitation = 2.1; Mind Control= 4.9; Dependency = 4.4. Total = 4.1 on Exhibit C (Cannot say = 2 items, 7%).

According to my interpretation of the GPA items, Heaven’s Gate members were strongly attached to their leaders, who exerted exceptional psychological control. Within a bounded world, there seemed to be little concern with outsiders, except as threat. Although Heaven’s Gate was characteristic of a cult, I saw no hint of terrorist behavior.

Exhibit B4

Dole’s Ratings on GPA Subscales for Heaven’s Gate

Psy Abuse Rating

Compliance

Exploitation

Mind Control

Dependency

5 very characteristic

5.0

4.9

4.4

4 characteristic

3 can’t say 

2.1 

2 not characteristic

1 not at all characteristic

Groups Compared

Exhibit B5 permits a rough comparison of the two terrorist Iraqi groups with Afghan Al Qaeda and Heaven’s Gate. As was shown in Exhibit A, a 5 rating is characteristic of a psychologically abusive group and a 1 rating is not at all characteristic. Of the four groups I rated, Heaven’s Gate is the highest on Compliance, Mind Control and Dependency, and lowest on Exploitation. All but Heaven’s Gate were high on Exploitation. Mind Control is characteristic of all four groups in my judgment.

Exhibit B5

Dole’s Ratings on GPA Subscales for Two Terrorist and Two Cultic Groups

Psy Abuse Rating

Compliance

Exploitation

Mind Control

Dependency

5 very characteristic

4.6

5.0

4.6

4.9

4.4

4.1

4.1

4.1

4.3

4.1

4.1

4 characteristic

3.3

3.4

3.3

3 can’t say

2.9

2.1

2 not characteristic

1 not at all characteristic

T1

T2

C1

C2

T1

T2

C1

C2

T1

T2

C1

C2

T1

T2

C1

C2

Legend: T1 = Iraqi Rulers; T2 = Iraqi Insurgents; C1 = Al Qaeda; C2 = Heaven’s Gate

Total GPA Scores

Exhibit C

Dole’s Ratings on Total GPA for Two Terrorist and Two Cultic Groups Compared to 51 Cultic Groups

Psy Abuse Rating

Iraqi Rulers

Insurgents

Al Qaeda

Heaven’s Gate

51 Cultic Groups

5 very characteristic

4.4


4.1

4.0

4 characteristic

3.6

3.8

3 can’t say

2 not characteristic

1 not at all characteristic

My ratings (mean of all means) as shown on Exhibit C for the four groups were: Iraqi Rulers = 3.6, somewhat less than characteristic of a psychologically abusive group; Iraqi Insurgents = 3.8; Afghan Al Qaeda = 4.4; and Heaven's Gate = 4.1, all characteristic of a psychologically abusive group. Note that my ratings may be compared with those of the members of 51 groups in the Chambers et al. (1994) study, who averaged 4.0, characteristic.

In my eyes, then, Bin Laden and his followers, like the suicidal supporters of Ti and Do, overall were decidedly cult-like; the Iraqi militants headed by Zarqawi, including some who were recruited by fundamentalist immams, shared with the Iraqi rulers before Gulf War I some cultic features.
Implications

Research on the GPA suggests that the 51 groups reported by Chambers et al. (1994) ranged widely—2.5 to 4.96—and exhibited a variety of patterns on the individual items and on the four Sub Scales. When I tried to apply what I knew about four selected groups, variation, not uniformity, again was evident, However, I also noted some overlap. Saddam, Zarqawi, Bin Laden, and Ti and Do all manipulated the thoughts and emotions of their members.

What possible actions might be effective for coalition forces in countering enemy psychological abuse? I'd suggest first of all that the military, diplomatic corps, and the public learn to better distinguish among their opponents on the basis of their various religions, histories, customs, and missions. Islam, for instance, includes several sects. This sort of discrimination requires that intelligence about a variety of opponents be collected and analyzed independent of political agendas. Findings need then to be circulated through education and public relations. Finally, some methods of interrogating prisoners, consistent with the Geneva Convention and basic human rights, might be adapted from effective exit consultation or other methods of behavioral change with former cult members. For example, mainstream Islamic interrogators carefully selected from neutral Arab counties might be coached in "soft" interviewing. . Thus, according to James Brandon in the Christian Science Monitor (2005), Islamic scholars successfully challenged the theology of five Al Qaeda prisoners in Yemen.

What do my exploratory findings mean for counter cultists? Of the many groups that use power, psychological control, and compliance to exploit their members, very few murder innocent outsiders. Aum Shinrikyo and Timothy McVeigh are exceptions. Cultic groups differ in their dynamics and their harmfulness

To cope with physically abusive groups, soft power and constructive action, more electricity and water in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, plus careful consideration of their particular grievances, may help to resolve conflicts. To cope with psychologically abusive groups, success may depend in part on continued research on intensive case studies like those of Heaven’s Gate, the development and application of measures like the GPA, and studies of effective interventions. Multidisciplinary investigations of group dynamics especially are needed. For example, we need to expand our knowledge of revenge and conflict resolution.

In conclusion: Are terrorists cultists? In my opinion some, like Al Qaeda, certainly are. Others, like the Iraqi Rulers and Iraqi Insurgents, are in some respects victims of psychological abuse that fuels their extreme physical abuse of others.

Or are cultists terrorists? Many, like Heaven’s Gate, definitely are not.
References

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Al-Zarqawi reportedly arrested in Iraq. (2005, April 14). [Electronic version]. The CHINA Daily, p. 1.

Armstrong, K. (2000). Islam. New York: Modern Library.

Bergin, P. L. (2001). Holy War, Inc.: Inside the secret world of Osama bin Laden. New York: Free Press.

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Bowden, M. (2002). Tales of the tyrant. The private life and inner world of Saddam Hussein. Atlantic Monthly, 35-53.

Brandon, J. (2005, Feb. 4). Koranic duels ease terror. Christian Science Monitor.

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Kinsley, M. (2001, October 5). Defining terrorism. Washington Post, p A37

Lalich, J. (2004a). Bounded choice: True believers and charismatic cults. Berkeley, ÇA: University of California Press.

Lalich, J. (2004b). Using the bounded choice model as an analytical tool: A case study of Heaven's Gate. Cultic Studies Review, 3, 226-246.

Lifton, R. J. (1961). Thought reform and the psychology of totalism. New York: W. W. Norton.

Lifton, R. J. (2000). Destroying the world to save it. New York: Holt.

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Rosedale, H. L. & Langone, M. D. (1998). On using the term "cult." In Cults and psychological abuse: A resource guide (pp. 67-72). Bonita Springs, FL: American Family Foundation American. Also available at: http://www.icsahome.com/infoserv_articles/langone_michael_term_cult.htm

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Acknowledgement

This paper is based on a presentation to the Annual International Meeting of the International Cultic Studies Association at l’Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, July 14-16, 2005. I want to thank Amalia Blanco who translated the paper into Spanish, so it could be given as part of a Spanish-language session on terrorism. I also want to thank Dr. Carmen Almendros for her diligence in helping to organize the conference and the Spanish sessions in particular.
About the Author

Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D, ABPP, Professor Emeritus, Psychology in Education Division, University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Dole is a member of the ICSA Board of Directors and the Editorial Advisory Board of Cultic Studies Review. He has published studies and presented papers at professional meetings about the Unification Church and other abusive groups. He recently contributed a chapter on terrorists and cultists to C. E. Stout's four-volume, The Psychology of Terrorism. (aadole@prexar.com)

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